Opioid commission calls for drug courts

By Daniel Uria  |  Updated Nov. 1, 2017 at 5:54 PM
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Nov. 1 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump's opioid commission issued its final report on Wednesday including a list of recommendations for policy changes to combat and treat opioid abuse.

The Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, submitted its list of 56 recommendations during a meeting at the White House.

In the group's first meeting since Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency it called for drug courts, which channel substance abusers accused of crimes into treatment, to be established in all 93 federal district courts in America.

In a letter to the president Christie said individuals who violate the terms of probation or parole with substance use should be diverted to drug courts and such courts should implement medication-assisted treatment for their populations.

"The criminal justice system should accept that medication, when clinically appropriate, can lead to lasting recovery; abstinence-only sobriety is not the only path to recovery," Christie said.

The commission declined to endorse the use of marijuana for pain treatment. Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found "marijuana use led to a 2 1/2 times greater chance that the marijuana user would become an opioid user and abuser."

Christie and the commission also suggested the Trump administration and Congress issue block grants to states for substance abuse aid to relieve administrative burdens.

"Block granting them would allow more resources to be spent on administering life-saving programs," Christie wrote. "This was a request to the commission by nearly every governor, regardless of party, across the country. And, as a commission that has three governors as members, all of whom know the frustration of jumping through multiple hoops to receive the funding we need to help out constituents in this fight, we wholeheartedly agree."

One of the commission's most urgent recommendations called for a "an expansive national multi-media campaign" as well as increased education for middle school, high school and college student about opioid abuse.

"This campaign, including aggressive television and social media outreach, must focus on telling our children of the dangers of these drugs and addiction, and on removing stigma as a barrier to treatment by emphasizing that addiction is not a moral failing, but rather a chronic brain disease with evidence-based treatment options," Christie said. "People need to be aware of the health risks associated with opioid use, and they must stop being afraid or ashamed of seeking help when facing their addiction."

A statement by the press secretary said the White House is grateful for the commission's work and looks forward to reviewing the recommendations as it continues to work to lessen drug demand and the opioid crisis.

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